If its newly unveiled HomePod (2nd generation) is anything to go by, Apple is convinced that occasionally, bigger is better. After retiring its chunky first-generation HomePod in 2021 in favour of the compact HomePod Mini, the Cupertino giant has surprisingly and cheekily revived its big boy speaker lineup. While the 2nd generation HomePod promises to deliver “next-level acoustics in a gorgeous, iconic design”, you can’t help but think this new model looks eerily similar to its discontinued predecessor.
This time around, the design language has been carried over from the 2018 smart speaker, measuring the same 6.8 inches in height and 5.6 inches in width and comes with a circular flat base. Under the hood, this new HomePod boasts fresh new internals and comes with a ton of new features to help deliver the ultimate listening experience. For starters, the 2nd generation HomePod sports a brand new S7 chip, first seen in the Apple Watch Series 7, that is integrated with software and system-sensing technology for advanced computational audio.
Apple also says that the new chip “maximizes the full potential” of the smart speaker, thus helping deliver a crisp, clear and clean audio experience. All the sound and audio are handled by a custom-engineered 4-inch high-excursion woofer along with a “beamforming array of five tweeters,” with each tweeter having its own neodymium magnet.
To further enhance the listener’s immersion, these 2nd generation Homepods come with a new gimmicky feature called ” room sensing technology,” which basically can sense the sound reflections to determine the speaker’s position “if it is against a wall or freestanding,” and use the data to adjust the audio in real-time. “Precise directional control of its beamforming array of five tweeters separates and beams direct and ambient audio, immersing listeners in crystal-clear vocals and rich instrumentation,” notes Apple.
The company’s signature Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos via Apple Music is available here as well and there’s a four-microphone setup so that you can yell out those commands to Siri whenever needed. Similar to the first model, you can pair two Homepods via AirPlay for a multi-audio experience. Using the multiroom audio setup, you can simply “say “Hey Siri,” or touch and hold the top of HomePod to play the same song on multiple HomePod speakers, play different songs on different HomePod speakers, or even use them as an intercom to broadcast messages to other rooms.
“Leveraging our audio expertise and innovations, the new HomePod delivers rich, deep bass, natural mid-range, and clear, detailed highs,” Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing said. “With the popularity of HomePod mini, we’ve seen growing interest in even more powerful acoustics achievable in a larger HomePod. We’re thrilled to bring the next generation of HomePod to customers around the world.”
There’s even support for Apple’s Ultra Wideband technology, using which you can transfer whatever’s playing on your iPhone to the speaker, even your calls. Now, that’s convenient! As for Siri, the software will now be able to identify up to six different voices and deliver personalized replies. But Apple is going above and beyond with the 2nd generation HomePod, presenting it more as a smart home device than just a regular Bluetooth-enabled smart speaker.
The company is adding a bunch of new smart home features via a software update that is slated to arrive later this spring, aiming to make one’s home smarter. One of the upcoming features is called Sound Recognition, which takes advantage of the built-in microphones to observe for smoke or carbon monoxide alarms. The Homepod will send an alert on your iPhone if it hears anything. The speaker is also fitted with a new temperature and humidity sensor that periodically takes a scan of the surroundings. According to Apple, this will allow the HomePod to shut blinds or switch on a fan to reach a certain preset temperature.
Whether Apple has done enough to revive interest in HomePod is still up for debate, but you can’t knock the tech giant for giving it another go. The 2nd generation HomePod comes in either white or grey, with a “colour-matched” power cable and is available to order for AUD $479 from the Apple store or via the Apple Store app, with availability commencing February 3.